Archives For Testimony

imprint-cross-lightOne of our homeschooling friends is currently running a series on their blog about the names of God. Each post covers a specific reference to God as mentioned in the Bible. At the close of that article, readers were asked to respond by answering the question: “Is there a name of God which has particular meaning for you?”

My answer was “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

It would have been just as valid to answer with Jesus Christ. Nothing goes deeper or attains the same forms of gratitude that this name rightly summons.

It’s through His name and everything He did, that everyone who calls on that name, will be saved. That those He now represents can come to God. Primarily because it’s through and in the person of Jesus Christ, that God choose to come to us, by becoming one of us.

Two years after being baptized, I found myself stumbling, crashing and colliding with life. Looking back twenty-two years, I can see that my downward spiral didn’t stop with being baptized, it started there.

I entered on a new path towards new life. I had entered on an inevitable confrontation with God. At that time in my life I would have never foreseen this as being a true catalyst; a reckoning and with it a tearing away of my old life in order for the new.

I had surrendered my life to God and with a firm grasp, God responded. There was no buzz. No hype. No euphoric feelings to mistakenly ground my theology on. It was a quiet revolution from practical atheism to Christian life.

Over two years, God never let go. The things that hindered me; things I couldn’t see that were toxic in my life were driven out. I was slowly being separated from the chains [sin and sinner alike] that had my pinned down. I grew closer to a more complete understanding of what needed to change and why.

Answering that question in this way was deliberate.  It was, as I read, receive, and remember it: a cry that stems from the immediate awareness of how hopeless I was.

In the words of metal musician Lacey Sturm, it involved a scream, a letting in of light and letting out of darkness; in a sense the cry releases us from a world of continual ”emotional vomit”. It comes from a place of deep pain to deep healing. From the darkness of despair into the hopefulness that comes from the freedom and permission to call God, father, and not just that, but to call upon Him as a father.

Karl Barth understood this. He understood its motivation and its motivating. Some days after replying to that question, I came across his thoughts on Romans 8:15:

‘That the Spirit cries – or that we ourselves cry in the Spirit; Abba Father! (Gal. 4:6, Rom. 8:15) – is the absolutely basic and primal form of the service for which, according to Romans 7:6 we are freed. Obviously, it is the basic and primal form of the command of God. This is what God’s command wants of us – the crying of the child, of the children who have at last found their father again, have at least been found by him, have at last been freed from the tutors and governors, at last been freed from the school-master, at last been freed – self-evidently – from the real power of disobedience, as last been freed from the nerve or lever of sin […] [i]

Barth then adds that God’s call to follow. This command to come, to call, to cry out, is grounded in the freedom to follow. We are set free from sin to be free for God. Our obedience is no longer motivated by a “we must’ or else’, but on, “we may because of”, therefore we can!

‘That God is for us, and therefore no one and nothing is against us, is the reason why it is quite impossible for us to remain in sin, and so necessary for us to transfer from its service to the obedience of righteousness. And if no one and nothing is against us in consequence of the fact that God is for us, this means simply that we are not condemned; that the Law of sin and death is repealed; that the lordship of the world-elements is broken. It is not a case of “must”, but “may.” Our “may” is our “must”. [ii]

After my baptism. I could not remain in sin. It was no longer my identity. It was no longer a debt owed, but one paid for in the liberating life and work of Jesus Christ. Though sin and the potentiality to sin remains, I am not owned by that sin. I am not owned by the past or the people who rather than confront it, choose to ignore it, and instead pretend it never happened.

For the Christian this is impossible because God does not ignore sin. If we can call Christianity  a religion, it’s not a religion of convenience. Relationship with God does not revolve around what is convenient to us.Rather then bury sin, God confronts it. He brings order into chaos (1.Cor.14:33). Jesus is God in revolt against the disorder of the world.

“A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  (Psalm 51:17, ESV)

God will peel the layers back until we are free to be, where we can be free to truly follow Him. The only denial that has permission to walk hand in hand with grace is self-denial. God doesn’t ignore our needs and leave us hanging around like a bewildered ape. He will not let go of the one who calls out His name and then puts their hand in His.

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
-(Galatians 4:6, ESV)
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
-(Romans 8:15, ESV)

Source:

[i] Barth, K. 1942 The Command of God as Claim of God: The Form of the Divine Claim C.D. II/II Hendrickson Publishers (p.592)

[ii] ibid, pp.592 & 593

Updated, 11th April 2017:

Karl Barth also makes mention of this in CD 3/3 on page 39:

‘In the N.T this title, ‘Father’ is not really a sentimental expression for the human experience of the goodness to man of the supreme being who rules in and over the world. It is as Jesus is the Son of God that God is His father and He calls Him by His name […] He invites us too to know and address God as our father. It is as we know this Father that we know the Creator, and not vice versa’ 

31st May 2015_Rod Lampard

In spite of my mother’s disapproval, as kids, my father would chase us around while wearing a witch’s mask. He gave himself away by his laughter, but in utter fear, my young sister and I would hide all around the house. Once we started attending school, his use of the mask had withered down to a threat, used only as a tool to pull us into line.

My family was dysfunctional.

Whenever we visited other families who had kids, my sister and I were forced to sit and not make a sound. It was rare that we’d be allowed to play. It was understandable, the environments weren’t all that great and my mother knew it.

We were a family stuck on welfare, living in government housing, growing up in a government housing estate.

It’s evident to most that my father had some minor emotional and mental health issues he never could shake free from. He wasn’t always there, shutting himself off in a world of his own, dragging us as a family into it. We were never quite sure when or where we’d land.

At one time he considered himself to be a private detective, proudly displaying his suspect, distance-education, mail-to-order qualifications on the lounge room wall.

These sat alongside mug shots and fingerprinted profiles of my sister and me, there “for our own protection.”

To our chagrin, he became the local neighbourhood watch co-ordinator, setting us all at odds with the demographic of every street other than our own.Sometime later he joined the Royal Australian Army Reserve. By this time my parent’s relationship had hit the rocks.

My father soon met and then married another woman, with whom he later had three amazing children. My parents divorced and a whole new dance with dysfunction began. My father and stepmother would have continual problems within their relationship, themselves divorcing sooner than some had predicted they would.

After living with my dad for a few years, our relationship became more and more strained. This ended abruptly, with me moving back to live with my mother. She arrived at his house to find my clothes in bags on the lawn. He choose to keep the CD stereo, he’d given me a year earlier.

A couple of years later, my father and step-mother’s infant son died. The day this happened my father rang my mother and we went over. Unable to revive the little man, my little brother was pronounced dead by the paramedics. His death later determined to have been caused by SIDs.

Before the ambulance took him away, my father wanted photos taken of us with him. This was hard to do, but the photos were taken anyway.

Situations like this one had a major impact on me. Other events such as link } or being dragged into court  before a magistrate, for eating food from the fridge, after my father accused me of stealing. Although his relatives tell me, he loved us. None of his actions prove this and no manner of excuse is factually adequate enough to dismiss or justify my fathers abuse or his absence.

We’ve shared a rough road.

In March of 2015, after an eight-hour road trip,  I saw my father for the first time in eight years. Having had extended my hand of friendship to him for the past ten, we had put in place boundaries and were on relatively good terms.

But, my father was dying. He had been sick for some time and finding the right time to make the eight-hour trip was always difficult.

After our visit, we were told that he was the best he’d been in two weeks. He was vibrant, talkative and pleased to see us. God’s quiet provision in this difficult situation was evident. When our meeting ended I prayed with him and said our goodbyes.

He’d hoped that he would have had more time, but five days later he passed away.

Over the years, it’s been difficult to process all that took place. It’s been even harder working out the right way to communicate it, without bulldozing people over with too much information, all at once. I admit I stumble over this more often than not.

Any forgiveness towards my father is made more complicated by the ongoing struggle to navigate and reconcile the consequences left in the wake of his decisions. He was unapologetic and felt entitled to forgiveness, without any real attempt to take responsibility for his decisions.

Even now, without him and more so because of the absence of apology, we wrestle because of the lack of his repentance. My extended family still struggles to relate to one another. In many cases the cycle of abuse continues and therefore, so does the need for tough boundaries.

I believe, however, that through Jesus Christ and His example of forgiveness we are enabled to forgive. Enabled to forgive the absence of apology. Enabled to grasp the fact that we are firmly held by grace above the abyss, for

‘Grace is that which holds humanity over the abyss of nothingness.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) [i]

Only through grace can the ‘creative power of forgiveness’ [ii] breathe, reconstruct, transform and free us.

In line with what Reinhold Niebuhr said, Christian forgiveness, like Christian prayer, is not stoic detachment.[iii] The past is far from forgotten, but I am able to forgive and as a result move forward in that forgiveness.

The evidence of God’s presence and guidance in this situation is real.

His forgiveness became mine as I was lead to befriend and establish boundaries with my father ten years ago. That same forgiveness enabled me to meet with my dying father at the right time, crack a joke, have his grandkids talk to him about school, give him a hug, pray with him, and say my goodbye.

‘For you, the Lord my God lighten my darkness. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.’
– (Psalm 18:28-30, ESV)

Set your eyes towards Christ. Inhaled grace ignites.


References:

[i] Bonhoeffer, D. Creation & Fall, DBW Vol.3

[ii] Bloesch, D. 2006 Essentials of Evangelical theology Hendrickson Publishers 2006:62

[ii] Niebuhr, R. 1945, Discerning the Signs of The Times

At the age of 13, I approached my father, showed him the latest batch of bruises and was promptly told that I had a place to stay.

Normality appeared to be resuming itself. The fear in me still existed even if my surroundings had changed. The separation of my parents twelve months ago had left me dangling. Confused. Frustrated.

A king piece in chess, with three pawns.

A king piece in chess, with three pawns. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The new accommodation was a white residential house, one that had been temporarily used by the town’s sole operating funeral home. The old house had a redesigned interior with a reasonable entrance which had been added on later. The kitchen was another story. It was deteriorated, the bathroom in serious need of repair and the garage still held remnants of a large cooler. There was also a curious smell that was difficult to erase.

My unemployed, usually welfare dependent father had signed on to the extravagant idea presented to him by his new father-in-law, that  in exchange for almost zero rent,  my father could renovate the place.

My bedroom had once held mourners who would come to view the departed. The coffins had long since been removed although an old trolley remained. In retrospect, it is likely that the use of the room was a softer version told to me in order to put to rest any concerns I had about the living arrangement.

Not long after my move to live with my dad. My stepmother gave birth.

The months that followed continued on their merry way, until one evening my dad pulled me aside and gave me a bulky tape recorder. Puzzled by the gift, I enquired as to what it was for. He told me that I was to attend a pre-Christmas gathering. There my stepmother’s family would all be present. I was to accompany her to her parent’s house, most of them strangers, and record everything that might be said regarding my dad[1].

I knew from the deep tone of my father’s that pleading not to, wouldn’t remove the terror attached to the task assigned to me:

“I need you to do this for me son, there is no one else I can trust”

Although I objected I went along, all the while trying to work out on how to carry out my mission or better yet, avoid completing it.

Not far from my destination I had concluded:

“If I stay in the car and don’t go into the house, I wouldn’t have to carry out my father’s wishes”.

I had reasoned that I would passively defy my father’s maligned request. So I sat in the car for hours, ignoring pleas from my stepmother to join the pre-Christmas family gathering.

When the evening was about to close and night-time was well underway I had held the line. As I moved closer to the freedom of the hour when this could all be over, I was scared, but felt that the brilliance of my plan would end in a win, win. Feeling a sense of achievement in his resolve, I relaxed.

This was a tactical error because it loosened the tension of the status quo. Something I had successfully maintained for over four hours.

My plan fell to pieces. My step-mom and her brothers approached me. With matriarch in tow they cross examined me and my reasons for not coming inside.

Hours of passive resistance were futile. I confessed to the interrogators that I was sent to record every conversation. Showed them the recording device I had concealed under the seat and told them of my win-win plan, telling them that I had hoped to avoid using it by staying in the car.

Upon this revelation my interrogators withdrew. I was left alone.

Their response was calculated and swift. One of my stepmother’s brothers had convened the family, a decision had been made.

I was to be taken back to my father. I was to tell him that his wife and new-born daughter were leaving him and would not return.

Like a young pawn before kings, my course was chosen for me. Two unfair errands had now transformed into one dark herald. I was trapped. Reduced to nothing more than a expendable messenger boy.

I arrived, was dropped off, then farewelled.

Turning towards the door I saw no lights.

My new “home”, the old funeral parlour was bleak, dark and empty.

I walked in through the unlocked sliding door. The whole house was dark.

Once inside I saw nothing but darkness.

Navigating the furniture, I eased forward. Giving each step serious consideration I moved through the old funeral home looking and calling for my dad.

No answer.

There was nothing but silence and that inescapable curious old funeral home smell fused together with remnants of oils used to cover over it.

At every light switch the fear grew and so did the volume of my voice.

I uttered the words:

“DAD?”

adding

“where are you?”

The darkness was no friend. The surreal situation scared the thirteen year old. Trembling, I fought off images of finding my dad’s dead body, images only made more real by the weird mission my father had sent me on.

Leaving the bathroom to inspect last, I made a cautious approach to every light switch.

The house made no noises. I checked the bathroom last.

Finally, I approached the closed bathroom door and opened it. Through the darkness I saw…nothing.

I was terrified. The only thing allowing movement in my body was the adrenaline that pumped with every thumping beat of my heart.

Turning towards the area which was once a lounge room, I let out tears and began to scream:

“DAD?”

“DAD, where are you? Stop hiding you’re scaring me”

Only then did my father appear in the doorway. He was hiding under a double bed.

“Where’s my wife, did you record anything?”

I explained that I didn’t record anything because I couldn’t. He didn’t go inside the entire evening.

I then sat down and with the very best a thirteen year old could muster, I told my dad that my stepmother and new born half-sister were leaving them; and that she would calling him soon to tell him why.

[1] Whether my father was invited to attend or whether he chose not to attend, is beyond this retelling and remains unknown to this day.

(This is a true recount of my own personal experience).

If you find yourself in the midst of despair hold fast to this:

‘…Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Cor.3:28)
‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand…I will make a way in the wilderness for you’ (Is.41:10 & 17-20)
©RL2013